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United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)

National Dementia Strategies

The consultation period for Northern Ireland's first dementia strategy ended in September 2010. The Alzheimer’s Society participated in the consultation. In November 2010 a summary of responses to the consultation were published by the Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety entitled "Improving Dementia Services".

A strategy document was published in November 2011 by Health Minister Edwin Poots, under the title “Improving Dementia Services in Northern Ireland, A Regional Strategy”.

The strategy makes recommendations aimed at improving the services and support arrangements currently available for people with dementia, their families and their carers. There are currently some 19,000 people living with dementia in Northern Ireland. This is expected to rise to some 23,000 by 2017 and 60,000 by 2051.

The dementia strategy also aims to reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia in the population; it is estimated that delaying the onset of dementia by five years could halve its prevalence.

Finally, new legislation is being developed to deal with mental capacity and mental health. This will include powers and protections relating to substitute decision making for those who are unable to make their own decisions, including people with dementia.

In November 2011, the Minister for Health, Edwin Poots launched “Improving Dementia Services in Northern Ireland, A Regional Strategy”. Alzheimer Europe spoke to Minister Poots about the reasons behind the launch, the priorities of the Strategy, the important role which patient groups must play and how European collaboration can help people with dementia and their carers.

This interview originally appeared in Dementia in Europe magazine in June 2012.

Alzheimer Europe  (AE): Why  did  you  launch the Dementia Strategy for Northern Ireland?

Minister Poots (MP): Dementia is of increasing importance to Government, to our communities, to our families and to the individuals who have dementia – it is a major concern for us all – the scale of the problem is increasing in accordancewith our ageing population.

In Northern Ireland we have the fastest growing elderly population in the UK. Currently, over a quarter of a million men and women are of a pensionable age, which is nearly one in six of our population. By 2028 that will have increased to nearly one in five and by 2050, nearly one in four.

Demographic changes have a very specific impact on demand for Health and Social Care services. As life expectancy rises, the number of people a€ffected by conditions associated with old age will increase dramatically. Based on rates from across Europe, we may see dementia numbers in Northern Ireland rise from the current estimate of 19,000 to around 60,000 by 2051.

Our goal must be to ensure that people with dementia are given every chance to live their lives to the fullest capacity and as independently as possible. To help achieve this I launched the Dementia Strategy in November last year.

Better outcomes for people living with dementia can be achieved when we come to understand how to delay the onset of dementia; when we have better ways to diagnose it early and when we have effective treatments for dementia alongside high quality care.

I want to ensure that people with dementia are treated with awareness and respect, especially by those providing services, and that they are supported to maintain their independence for as long as possible. I believe that the Strategy can help shape the development of excellent services for people with dementia.

AE: What do you see as the main priorities and challenges of the Strategy?

MP: Meeting the increasing demand for dementia support services will require everyone from Health & Social Care professionals, voluntary and community organisations, and service users and carers, to work together to develop more efficient and effective systems of care, and to plan and implement better treatment and support programmes.

For those with a diagnosis of dementia, the Strategy requires us to look critically at the way we are delivering services. We all must ensure that it is not only what people with dementia and their carers have said they want and need, but that it is supported by evidence of its effectiveness.

The key themes of our Strategy are:

  • prevention - there is some scope to prevent or delay the onset of dementia through a healthy lifestyle approach and reduction in cardiovascular risk factors
  • raising awareness and addressing stigma associated with the condition
  • access to early diagnosis, enhancing existing memory services to agreed commissioning standards to provide assessment, diagnosis, information and support
  • staged approach to care and support as the condition progresses, with the aim of maintaining daily living and independence as far as possible
  • improving staff€ awareness and skills to respond appropriately to people’s needs
  • redesign of services to shift care as far as possible to people’s own homes and avoid admission to hospital or care home where possible, and
  • the need for worldwide research into causes, cure and care for dementia.

Also underpinning the Strategy has been the development of a set of Values & Principles, which are considered key to guiding the future development of services for people with dementia and the people who care for them. These are:

  • dignity and respect
  • autonomy
  • justice and equality
  • safe, effective, person-centred care
  • care for carers, and
  • skills for staff.

As you can see there has been a focus through the development process on creating a Strategy that is centred on the person, aimed at addressing the things that concern people the most.

I am confident that we have produced a practical, realistic and achievable Strategy for people with dementia, one which is designed to deliver the best services and support arrangements we can, tailored to the individual’s particular needs and circumstances. And we must always remember that simple interventions can often have very important and significant outcomes.

AE: What role do you see patient groups playing in implementing the strategy?

MP: When I launched the strategy last year I tasked the regional Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland with taking the strategy forward and implementing its actions.

The first stage of this process is to establish a steering group to oversee this work. This will include looking at how best to include people living with dementia, and their carers, so that they are actively involved in the work being done to improve the services they use.

This is a very important part of the process. The involvement of people living with dementia was at the heart of the development of our strategy. For example, the Alzheimer’s Society carried out a pre-consultation exercise with service users and carers to help inform the Strategy at an early stage. This was titled the “Listening Well” Report.

Also, accompanying the public consultation was a targeted exercise with service users and carers, carried out by the Dementia Services Development Centre. We must continue in this manner as we move forward with implementing the strategy and I am confident that we will do so.

AE: Do  you  see  a  need  for  greater  European collaboration on dementia?

MP: Greater collaboration will undoubtedly lead to the development of better services for people living with dementia and their carers.

I believe one of the areas that can greatly benefit from collaboration is research. Research into dementia is vitally important if we are to provide improved diagnosis, more effective treatments and better outcomes for people living with dementia.

Any developments resulting from research into this condition, whether they are made locally or internationally, will benefit people living with dementia everywhere.

But it is not just research that can benefit from collaboration. The impact of dementia in Northern Ireland, in Europe, and indeed world-wide, calls for a co-ordinated approach in all aspects of tackling this condition, and we can greatly improve the lives of those affected most through the sharing of good practice and dissemination of new ideas.

Alzheimer’s Society has been a key participant in the development of the Dementia Strategy. Elizabeth Byrne McCullough, Policy & Public Affairs Officer, speaks with Alzheimer Europe about the Society’s role in developing the Strategy and the challenges ahead.

This interview originally appeared in Dementia in Europe magazine in June 2012.

Alzheimer Europe (AE): What role was played by  Alzheimer’s  Society  in  development  of Dementia Strategy?

Elizabeth  Byrne McCullough (EBM):  Since the Northern Ireland Assembly Executive made its formal commitment to develop a dementia strategy in 2008, Alzheimer’s Society has been in the thick of the project set up by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS). Furthermore, the Society has played a pivotal role in ensuring the views of people with dementia and carers have been incorporated at a formative stage by directing and facilitating research undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation including people currently living with dementia in Northern Ireland. Alzheimer’s Society published documentation of those views in the Listening Well report in Belfast in November 2009. Recommendations from Listening Well form a key part of the Strategy which the Minister for Health, Edwin Poots presented to the Northern Ireland Assembly in November 2011.

AE: What  impact will  the Dementia  Strategy have and what challenges does Alzheimer’s Society see?

EBM: The necessity for a strategic approach to the challenge of dementia is reflected in the policy direction of government and non-government bodies right across Europe and the various approaches have been outlined in the pages of Dementia in Europe in recent years.

The Dementia Strategy for Northern Ireland is very much part of that European-wide movement with the potential for huge positive impact on everyone living with dementia now and in the future.

Broadly speaking, the Strategy sets out to support people with dementia to live as well and independently as they can, to get quality information, care and support to make decisions and to live well in any setting from diagnosis to the end of life. It aims to raise public awareness of how we can all reduce our risk of developing dementia through lifestyle changes and tackles stigma and lack of understanding or dementia specific skills in the health and social care workforce.

Though the Society reserves some doubts that the Minister can accomplish the priorities he has outlined without additional funds for the strategy’s implementation, we share the Minister’s view that dementia is a considerable social challenge, we support his determination to address it and hope to be part of realising the Strategy’s vision in full for people living with dementia.



Last Updated: Friday 02 November 2012